Good high resolution photographs of the iconic Bayeux Tapestry have been largely impossible to find online. The internet is lousy with meme versions of the tapestry (including custom ones created with a dedicated generator), but if you wanted to browse the real thing you were out of luck.
Well, the long, dark night is over. The Bayeux Museum has digitized the entire tapestry and made it freely available on its website. The embroidered linen illustrated retelling of the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066 is 68.38 meters (224 feet) long and 70 centimeters (2’4″) long. High resolution photographs were digitally stitched together to create a panorama that you can scroll through from beginning to end, zooming in close enough to see every stitch of the embroidery and the weave of the linen. You can also jump from scene to scene. Click the Text button on the right side menu for transcriptions and translations in English and French of the Latin inscriptions.
The photographs were taken in 2017 as part of an unprecedented three-year study of the Bayeux Tapestry to determine its conservation needs. The condition report found there are 24,202 spots, 16,445 folds, 9,646 gaps in the canvas or the embroidery and 30 unstabilized tears. The first few feet are significantly weaker than the rest of the tapestry. It is not in immediate danger, but the determination of the committee in charge of monitoring the condition of the work is that it does need a comprehensive restoration focused on repair and stabilizing areas of damage that are not integral to its long history. Some issues that bear witness to its past — nail holes from previous hangings, wax stains from candles — will be left as is unless deemed to be a danger to the tapestry.
The project will be a complex one. Just to begin with, the current backing, installed in 1982, will have to be dismantled. The 18th century liner and a band applied to the lower part of the tapestry in the 19th century have to be removed to free the medieval linen from excess tension. Since the museum will be undergoing a vast refurbishment in 2024 and will shut its doors for new construction, the conservation is tentatively scheduled to take place during the museum’s closure.